Dr. Stuart Smith DDS 4836 N 1st St Suite 105 Fresno
Avoid Avoid Avoid!
On my first visit, I ended up waiting, in an empty waiting room, almost two hours before I was moved to an examine room. Then, I had my X-Rays taken and was treated to a long meandering conversation with Dr. Smith in which he told me horror stories about his problem patients and talked about his desire to write a book before finally telling me that I had cavities and would need to make a series of appointments for fillings. I asked about a cleaning, being under the impression that I was going to be getting one that day, and was told that my appointment had gone on too long and the cleaning would have to take place at the same appointment as the first of the fillings.
The whole appointment took over three hours.
On my next visit, I waited for over half an hour, again alone, before anything happened. I was then offered a pill before the procedure started. I asked what the pill was, but was never given an answer. I became increasingly nervous and Dr. Smith’s retelling of past problem patients and a story about a dental assistant who freaked out in the middle of a procedure and ran screaming from the room did little to waylay my fears. I started to cry. Not loud sobs, but a steady trickle of tears. I told the staff that I was nervous and was told that it wouldn’t hurt. (Do I even need to point out the fallacy in that statement?)
In the chair I was asked to watch a video that would answer any questions. Because of my limited vision (almost legally blind) I had trouble viewing the monitor but was told that I could just listen. When the video was over I remarked that it seemed they had skipped the whole drilling part of the procedure, Dr. Smith agreed that that had been left out, but didn’t seem too concerned about it.
Let me pause here and say something about my jaw. My jaw hurts. It hurts while being open all the way, it hurts while being closed all the way. It hurts to yarn. It hurts to bite into anything hard like an apple. It hurts to chew chewy food. I grind my teeth at night, and it hurts. Dr. Smith was aware of this as we had discussed it during my initial consultation. He had even explained, in part, why it hurt.
As the filling procedure started I was told by Dr. Smith that if I was in too much pain or needed a break, I could raise my left hand and they would honor that.
The procedure was a nightmare. Apparently I have quite a gag reflex and had trouble not gagging and coughing on the water. Also, after only a few moments my jaw began to ache. I needed a break, a chance to pop it a bit and ease the building tension. Repeatedly I raised my left hand and it was pushed back down. My fear and my pain made the trickle of tears continue. Again, not outright sobbing or big gulps of air, but a steady stream of tears and, I must bashfully admit, several whimpers.
Dr. Smith became annoyed with me. At one point he told me to “Stop acting like a child” and to get my emotions under control. Mortified, and still getting no relief despite my repeated attempts to signal with my left hand, I was at a loss and couldn’t stop crying. The doctor’s movements became hurried and his tone ever increasingly frazzled and brisk.
When it was over, I wasn’t given a chance to collect myself or wash up. Instead, my head at an odd angle, as I was still in the partly reclined chair, I was treated to a long diatribe on the part of the doctor about how I was a problem patient, how I needed to find a way to get over my fear of dentists, and how he wouldn’t work on me unless I was partly sedated. When I tried to ask about why I wasn’t allowed a break even though I had used the signal he had given me, I was told that I had “continually grabbed at” my mouth, events I don’t remember and highly doubt I did. When I apologized and expressed my confusion because I didn’t remember doing any grabbing, I was told it was the effects of the pills.
Chastised, mortified, and really needing to use the restroom, I was instead told I needed to pay right then for the partial sedation process that would happen at my next appointment. I did so and suffered through yet another lecture by Dr. Smith before being allowed to leave. I was given a pill to take the night before and admonished to “take some time” to get over my dental anxieties. I was assured he and I would “check in with each other” prior to the next session.
The whole appointment took two and a half hours.
Two weeks later on the eve of my next appointment, I took the pill.
It did not, as promised, send me off to sleep, make me feel relaxed, or calm. I don’t know if it was the fault of the pill or if the pill just had no effect, but I spent a very restless night trying to psych myself into not being afraid of what the next day would hold.
I arrived at the office intending to talk to Dr. Smith. I wanted to make it clear that I was still highly uncomfortable, that I needed his assurance that there could be breaks, that the hand signal would be honored, that he would be cognoscente of my jaw pain… and that he would know that the pill I had already taken hadn’t had the desired effect.
I arrived just before 9 and was told that the doctor wouldn’t be in until 10. I was instructed to take another pill and begin the partial sedation process. Flabbergasted, I explained that I wasn’t comfortable taking any more pills, especially since the last one hadn’t worked, until I could talk to the doctor. I was then told he might be in as early as 9:30, but might not arrive until 10. I was told to simply take the pill and talk to him then. Feeling more and more frustrated, I again explained that I didn’t want to take something that might sedate me prior to having a chance to talk to the doctor and becoming more confident in the upcoming procedure. I was told there was no other choice. I opted to cancel the appointment until I had a chance to talk to the doctor. Now the dental assistant (who also works at the front desk) was frustrated. She assured me that the doctor would be in eventually and I really should just take the pill. I responded that if I wasn’t going to be listened to or helped, that I might have to find another dentist. She threw her hands up in exasperation and walked away telling me that if my mind was made up, I should just go ahead.
I know I can’t get a refund for the money I spent on the cavities he filled. I understand that I can’t get a refund for the money spent on a partial sedation that never happened.
But honestly, I don’t think I should have to pay for canceling the appointment less than 24 hours prior.
And, I don’t think I should be fiscally responsible for any costs in sending my X-Rays from Dr. Smith’s office to a new dentist office.
I also think that the public and the insurance companies should know that his office treated me rudely, was not compassionate, wasted my time, and in the end did more harm to any dental anxiety I might have had.
Again, avoid this dentist office!